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Optical engineering, also referred to as optical engineering or photonics engineering, is a specialised area of engineering which focuses on the application of optics for the design and manufacture of optics products for a huge range of purposes. The technical skills of an Optics Engineers are utilised to design optical instruments such as lenses, microscopes and telescopes; photographic equipment including cameras, videos and various types of projectors; medical devices such as endoscopes; home/office equipment including laser printers and photocopiers; optical readers for CDs and CD-Roms; supermarket checkout scanners, fibre optic communication systems and a host of other applications.
Optical engineers will work with other engineering and technical staff at the beginning of a project in order to understand the specifications of the product to be designed. Optical engineers will then continue to work a part of a team which might include engineers from other disciplines, technical and laboratory workers in order to design, analyse, test and refine the product being created. In some instances optical engineers may be involved with the development of the manufacturing, assembly, and fabrication processes too.
Some phototonics or optics engineers may work within a specific environment such as a healthcare company which creates optical diagnostics and laser surgery, others may work in a more general optics, optical or photonics engineering organisation which produces a wider variety of products.
In addition to their in depth knowledge of optics, optical engineers also need to have an appreciation of technology, materials, costs and design methods in order to design and build optics devices. Optical engineers also need to be IT literate as they will utilise specific optical or photonics engineering software for design, simulation and testing purposes.
Due to the ever increasing use of optics within engineering, technology, communications, medical devices and other arenas, skilled and experienced optics engineers are in high demand and the potential for career development within optics engineering is great.
Skills and experience required to become an optical engineer
BSc Degree in physics, optics, optoelectronics or a relevant engineering discipline.
Postgraduate Degree in a relevant subject is sometimes rquired
Knowledge of optical system design and analysis using specific optics engineering software
Understanding of optical principles
Understanding of optical test methods and specifications
Ability to work as part of a team